On the heels of a dominating 5-1 win in game 3 on Sunday afternoon, the Penguins were arguably even more impressive in bullying the Flyers during a 5-0 win on Wednesday night. The Flyers flipped home-ice advantage with a game 2 win in Pittsburgh, then promptly watched the Penguins skate into their own building and outscore them 10-1 in back-to-back dominating wins in Philadelphia to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
Matt Murray wasn’t overly impressive in the Pittsburgh net (he didn’t have to be), but made all 26 saves in the win to earn the shutout and has now allowed just 5 goals on 96 shots (.947 save percentage) through four games in the series. As the Penguins’ netminder finds his groove, the opposite is true for the Flyers as Brian Elliott was pulled yet again after allowing three goals on 17 shots.
Despite playing without the services of Sean Couturier, it’s not likely the Selke Trophy finalist would have been able to stop the Penguins’ press or the Flyers’ free fall in this one.
Brian Elliott would come up with the games first big save, stopping Riley Sheahan in close on a quick developing 2-on-1 for the Penguins just over two minutes in.
The stop came after a trio of turnovers from the Flyers in their own zone as a shaky start would plague them early. Not helping matters was a holding call on Matt Read to put the Flyers shorthanded three minutes in.
Pittsburgh would take advantage, cashing in with an Evgeni Malkin tally to make it 1-0 at the 4:33 mark. The Penguins controlled the puck most of the power play and Sidney Crosby was able to find Malkin on the backdoor to grab the opening goal.
The Flyers continued to sag even after the Malkin goal, but were bailed out with a couple dandy saves from Elliott to keep the score from ballooning. They managed just three shots through the first 12 minutes as Matt Murray got comfortable in the Pittsburgh crease.
Sans-Sean Couturier the Flyers’ re-worked top line of Claude Giroux, Nolan Patrick and Jake Voracek would buzz with an outstanding shift with about eight minutes left in the first, but Murray was able to turn aside the best chance from Voracek. Nevertheless it was a momentum-chaining shift as the Flyers finally showed life in a must-win game at home.
But despite a flurry of pressure for at least three minutes, the Penguins needed just one shot at the other end to extend their lead.
Malkin found Phil Kessel going the other way on a 2-on-1 and the thrill was able to sneak a snap shot past Elliott to make it 2-0 Penguins at the 14:37 mark. It was Scott Laughton who tried to send the puck back to the point at the other end amid the Flyers’ pressure, but the puck found Malkin who raced the other way with Kessel for the goal instead.
Wayne Simmonds nearly got one back with a deflection off a Radko Gudas shot with 3:20 left in the period, but Murray stayed with the puck and made the save. Now is probably a good time to point out that it was Gudas who collided with Couturier on Tuesday at practice and is the reason the Selke Trophy finalist isn’t playing.
After taking a bad penalty with 2:42 left to put the Penguins’ power play back on the ice, Travis Konency had a breakaway after leaving the box, but was stoned by Murray. Konency was shooting the entire way, but was met with an ultra-aggressive Murray.
A holding call on Tom Kuhnhackl would give the Flyers a man-advantage 3:31 into the second and a chance to cut into the Penguins’ two-goal lead. Instead, the Flyers didn’t register a shot on during the power play.
Without a shot on goal through eight minutes to start the second, the Flyers would watch yet another Penguins goal in behind Brian Elliott. This time a Kris Letang shot hit off a stick in front and over the glove hand of Elliott at the 8:04 mark to push the lead to 3-0. It would also chase Elliott from the net as coach Dave Hakstol yanked the veteran in favor of Michal Neuvirth.
The goaltending change would neither stop the pucks from going nor provide an energy boost for the Flyers.
Sidney Crosby would push the Pens’ lead to 4-0 and move past Mario Lemeiux for first place on the clubs all-time playoff scoring list with a dandy wrap-around that fooled just about everyone in the building. Time of the goal was 10:56 with Dominik Simon and Jake Guentzel picking up the assists.
The goal was indicative of the series as a whole, with Crosby sneaking one home as the six Flyers on the ice had no idea what was going on.
Even a double minor to Evgeni Malkin for high-sticking couldn’t get the Flyers on track. The first three minutes plus of the man-advantage were killed off by the Penguins save for a couple close misses from Nolan Patrick on the doorstep. The remaining 23 seconds would carry over to the third period, which by rule had to take place.
Nolan Patrick broke in alone on Murray to start the third, but was again unable to finish and get the Flyers on the board. The rookie couldn’t find the back of the net, but was easily the Flyers’ best player on the ice while jumping up to the top line in the absence of Couturier.
Patrick led the Flyers with six shots on goal, three more than the next closest Flyer.
Claude Giroux, one of the men tasked with picking up the slack without Couturier, couldn’t find much space as the Penguins’ defense closed down on him throughout the night. He tested Murray with a quick shot from the slot at the 7:38 mark of the third, but Murray wasn’t phased and easily handled the attempt.
With this one long decided, Riley Sheahan would join the scoresheet with his first goal of the series at the 15:46 mark to push the lead to 5-0 Penguins. But at that point, the score was arbitrary as the Penguins had broken the Flyers’ will and spirit long ago.